Ecosystem Grants

The Bush Foundation works to inspire and support creative problem solving — within and across sectors — to make our region better for everyone. We know problem solving is hard. Our Ecosystem grant program is designed to provide operating support to the programs and organizations that do the most to support the people doing this work. 

Some might call these infrastructure organizations or intermediary organizations or just can’t-do-without organizations. We call them Ecosystem organizations because they create the environment for organizations and leaders to solve problems and make the region better for everyone.

What we fund

Ecosystem grants provide operating support to programs and organizations that our grantees, Fellows and other organizations rely heavily on to:

  • Provide critical data and analysis.
  • Spread great ideas and build capacity.
  • Advance public awareness and policy.
  • Build and support leadership networks.

We are looking for Ecosystem grantees that support organizations and leaders working to advance the goals of our focus areas.

Organizations may apply to receive as much as $300,000 over three years in operating support. The annual grant amount is typically 25% of the organization’s expenses, up to $100,000 per year. All Ecosystem grantees will receive an additional $10,000 in capacity building funds to build or increase their skills to work across differences. 

Selection Criteria

Impact on other organizations and leaders.

To what degree does the organization support other organizations and leaders in one or more of the following ways?

  • Provide critical data and analysis.
  • Spread great ideas and build capacity.
  • Advance public awareness and policy.
  • Build and support networks of leaders.

Do other organizations and leaders find the organization uniquely and significantly valuable?

Fit with the Foundation's focus areas.


    Does the organization support other organizations to collaboratively solve community problems?
    Does the organization inspire, equip and connect leaders to more effectively lead change?


    Does the organization help others to use art and culture to solve community problems?
    Does the organization help schools and educators move toward student-centered learning?
    Does the organization support tribal governments to exercise sovereignty?
    Does the organization support people to start and grow businesses that solve social problems?

Note: We don't award Ecosystem grants to organizations working on specific issues other than these four.

How the organization operates.

Is the organization stable and strong in terms of governance and finance?

Does the organization operate in a way that aligns with the Bush Foundation's operating values?

Across all our work, we are committed to advancing racial and economic equity in our region. As we review applications, we will consider whether organizations have the skills and orientation to support leaders and organizations working toward that end.

Additional Considerations

We will also consider the diversity of our portfolio across:

  • Size of community served.
  • Size of the organization.
  • Demographics of communities served.
  • Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.

Ecosystem grants may be awarded to 501(c)(3) public charities or government entities. Coalitions or collaborative efforts are eligible to apply, but only one organization may receive the grant.

Organizations that do not have 501(c)(3) status may submit an application through a fiscal sponsor. The fiscal sponsor must submit the grant application. If the grant is approved, the fiscal sponsor becomes the grantee and receives the funds. Learn more about fiscal sponsorships.

Grants must be used for a charitable purpose that supports people and organizations in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.

How to Apply

We will accept applications January 14 through February 13, 2020 at noon Central.

Ecosystem grants are currently awarded every three years.

We use an online application system. We understand this may present a barrier to some applicants, and we will make reasonable efforts to accommodate particular needs on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us to discuss your specific circumstances. 


  • We recommend using Chrome or Firefox as your web browser to complete the online application.
  • The online application counts characters differently than programs like Microsoft Word. Type your answers directly in the application instead of copying and pasting from another program.
  • Some fields have a character count limit. The application will stop you from typing without warning when you reach the limit.
  • Use plain text to complete your answers. Avoid using bold, italic, underlined or centered text, special characters or bullets. If you need to separate things in list form, use bullet substitutes such as plus signs (+), asterisks (*) or hyphens (-).
  • Your application can be saved to revisit and finish at any time. We recommend that you save early and often! To save a change and continue working in the current tab of the application, click the "Save" button at the bottom of the page.
  • The online application automatically times out when inactive for two hours. In case of a time-out, all text entered after your last save will be lost. Please note that there is no change to the computer screen after this time-out occurs. Save your work often!
  • Applications that are started but not submitted within 24 months of being started will be deleted from our system.

Review applications and select finalists

A group of five Foundation staff will review applications and select finalists using the program criteria at the end of March. Decisions will be shared with applicants in early April.

Review of finalists

In April, Foundation staff will call finalists to learn more about their organization and how they fit with the Ecosystem program. In order to better understand the value and support the applicant provides to other organizations and individuals, staff will conduct reference calls at this time as well.

If your organization is selected as a finalist, we may request financial materials to include in our staff review. These may include audits, IRS Form 990s or internal financial statements, depending on the size of your organization. We collect these documents to understand the health and capacity of your organization and to provide better support to our applicants and grantees. We aim to be a resource and provide an open space to talk if there are financial challenges or areas where your organization struggles. Financial health is one of many factors in our decision making. If you have any questions, please reach out to us via the contact information below.

Select grantees

A group of eight Foundation staff will review the finalist applications and any additional information gathered and will select grantees using the program criteria. Decisions will be shared with the finalists at the end of June.


For more information, or to talk with someone about the Ecosystem grant program, call 651-379-2218 or email